Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012 from Greenvale


Look who St. Nicholas dropped into our Christmas scene...

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Wishing anyone who reads my little blog a happy and safe holiday.

With love, from the Witek's

Thursday, December 20, 2012

When Worlds Collide

Tech world, meet Orthodoxy.



In this TEDx talk, "Re-creation of the Icon," iconographer Lynette Hull draws a compelling parallel between Steve Jobs' focus on the use of icons (the kind on our computing devices) and beauty of design, and the ancient Christian art of iconography. This talk is really good. Really, really good. Please watch it. You won't be disappointed. It's about 20 minutes long.

***

Ok, now that you've watched it, there are a lot of things I can say about Lynette's ideas in this talk.

Early step in an icon I wrote under expert tutelage, Spring 2010

For one, the simple fact that she's discovered such a valid and interesting analogy between the tech world and the Orthodox faith makes me feel less alone in the fact that I make sense out of things in the tech world using my faith, and things in my faith using things from the tech world, all the time. It's a constant mode of understanding the world around me that runs in my mind, and it's very cool to encounter another woman who sees things similarly in this respect.

Gold leaf added (though we didn't use clay as shown in video)



Second, the content of the talk is actually exactly what I'm writing my term paper on right now. More specifically, when Lynette talks about reason and rationality (as represented by the original IBM DOS computers) as opposed to our "noetic faculties" (which is what Jobs taps into when his company created the first GUI: graphical user interface), this is precisely the ratio/intellectus dichotomy I am exploring in my paper, as two different modes of knowing that together enable us to have knowledge. Furthermore, in my Masters thesis I will be using the ratio/intellectus framework (and its many other sibling-concepts, like work/rest, time/eternity, logos/nous, logic/love) to better understand the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. After watching this talk, I am already dreaming up ways of incorporating this TEDx talk into my thesis, likely as a way to relate these heady concepts to the everyday.

Finished Icon of the Mother of God "Sweet Kissing"
And third, when Lynette goes into the stuff about the different ways we learn, and the fact that logic is not necessarily what is deepest in us as humans, but rather (again) our "noetic faculties," I immediately thought of a parallel in the library world as well. Until the past decade, online library catalogs (OPACs) relied on what is called Boolean operators in order to build a search query that is focused and specific to the researcher's information need. More recently, though, the trend has moved away from Boolean searching and instead focused on---you guessed it---a more graphical, browsing-based search experience dubbed in the library world a "discovery" service, as opposed to a "search" query. We no longer search, we discover our information, or so the rhetoric goes. But if Lynette is correct, and I do believe she is, there is more than rhetoric involved in this move.

Can it be that discovery services in libraries are tapping into our noetic faculties?

Besides the fact that I get a real kick out of having just written that sentence, I think the answer may just be "Yes."

A lot more can be developed here, but since I have to go write that term paper, for now I need to end my response to the video here.

If you watched the video (and I hope you did!), what did you take from it?

H/T to Orthodox Arts Journal for the video.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Term Paper Progress/Process

Holy 8-page single-spaced color-coded outline of quotes, Batman!

Tonight's Progress

I am working on my Theology term paper (described here under the heading "Present"), with a goal to have it completed and turned in by the end of this week. It's late for the semester, but my prof is on board with me turning it in as I'm able, what with Bookie and all. He'll grade it when he gets it and change my "Incomplete" to a grade for the course, no problem. Such a blessing to both work and study in a family-friendly environment.

The end of last week and the beginning of this one saw me mining for relevant quotes the texts of my four main sources (with a fifth source waiting in the wings if needed) and copying them into outline-form. However, the quotes are organized by source, not by topic/point, so my next step was to organize the quotes according to what point each will help me make in the paper. 

Now, in the distant past that was my undergraduate years, what I would do to organize the "evidence" (that's the quotes I've collected) is to color code what I have. I'll admit that in grad school I got a little lazy and would often just start writing the paper at this point, hunting through my collection of quotes as I go. While it cut out a huge step (the color coding part), it lengthened my writing time in the long run because I'd often miss something super important, have to return to that part of the paper and insert the additional quote/point while attempting to make the insertion as organic-sounding as possible. I can write a decent paper that way, but for this class I really wanted to return to my more organized, slightly OCD way of writing a paper, in large part because this paper will be absorbed into my Masters Thesis, which I'll be writing much of next year. I figured, best to get my methodology back up to par before tackling the project that will be my Thesis.

Sample page of my "evidence"
...or the inner workings of the mind of a
madwoman? (Click to embiggen)
The Major Points I am capable of making
using said evidence

I'm posting this because I wanted to record where I'm at in the process. After putting in three hours of analog work with these texts, using nothing but colored pens and highlighters, and being able to say I can see the shape my paper is taking so very clearly now as a result... I feel so refreshed and ready to begin writing tomorrow. And that feels good. Oh so good.

Though, before I write, there is this that needs attending to...

What the heck do I want to say???

Ahem. Still a ways to go, but a few steps closer than I was. Time to go unwind with the hubs and Bookie, then tomorrow: begin again. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

PAXbaby.com Babywearing Giveaway

We interrupt your normally scheduled content from Donna the Librarian-Mama to announce a giveaway! Yes, I've succumbed to my first bit of giveaway madness, but the prizes are just too good to pass up: all babywearing-related. PAXbaby.com is an awesome website devoted to all-things-babywearing, and their Facebook Page just reached 10,000 Likes -- Congrats PAXmamas! To celebrate they are hosting a giveaway with ten great prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But seriously, if the thought of wearing your baby, now or in the future, appeals to you, or even just makes you curious, please check out PAXbaby.com to learn more. Even simply looking at photos and videos of mamas wearing their babies I find to be incredibly...fulfilling? Beautiful? Educational? All of the above. I have a post in draft about how babywearing has helped me be a better mama-who-works-outside-the-home, but more on that when I find the time to finish it (*ahem*). In the meantime, check out PAXbaby.com and their awesome giveaway! (And don't hesitate to ask me any questions that strike your fancy if you do decide to go learn more about babywearing.)


Friday, November 30, 2012

Writing About Writing (Updated)

Image by Meghan McDevitt-Murphy via Facebook

***

So many things I want to write about for this blog... I've been back at work since October 8th, and it's been some ride. Not bad by any means, but an adjustment. Bookie is 4 months today, and this past week she turned a corner where she went from infant-baby to infant-girl. She can see more, farther and deeper than she had been able to before. I can only assume the nonstop nursing she did a little over a week ago had something to do with it (can you say 'growth spurt'?)...must have gone straight to her brain, and her legs, her arms and her hair. Everything is bigger, including the world she sees, and it's very awesome and humbling to behold.


That being said, with all the different things I could write about right now (i.e., Bookie's baptism, pumping at work, Bookie's time at day care, my awesome workplace, bringing Bookie to class with me, the joys of babywearing--I plan to write on all of these at some point), I've decided to compile a quick post containing my research-related writing projects: past, present and future. There's so much to fit in over the next 10 months, especially since after those 10 months I hope to go up for promotion to Associate Professor. My ability to do that hinges on the following projects, and finding the time to complete them all...definitely wish I could wave a wand and have more time per day appear out of thin air at this point. Anyway, here they are, listed very briefly as I'll probably elaborate on them in later posts:

Past:
  • "Information literacy on Facebook: an analysis," research article by yours truly and my research partner, Teresa Grettano, published in Vol. 40, Issue 2 (March 2012) of the peer-reviewed journal Reference Services Review. This is Part 1 of a two part study, the second part described below in the "Future" list.
  • "Information Literacy Gets Social," a professional column I wrote that was accepted for publication in the PaLA Bulletin, the quarterly publication of the Pennsylvania Library Association. My understanding is that it should be in the next issue, which I believe is the Oct-Dec 2012 issue. 
Present:
  • Term Paper for Dr. Will Cohen, Dept. of Theology/Religious Studies here at The University of Scranton, to fulfill the requirements of the 3.0 credit Graduate-level Reader I'm doing with him called Theology of Work, Rest and Liturgy. The paper doesn't have a title yet, since I haven't written it yet, but in it I will be looking at the parallel dichotomies of ratio-intellectus, work-rest, and time-eternity, in the works of several modern/contemporary theologians, including Josef Pieper, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. Andrew Louth, and Rebecca DeYoung. This paper, which I am aiming to be 12-15 pages long, will then be absorbed into my Masters thesis, which is described below.
Future:
  • Part 2 of the study about Facebook and information literacy, described in the first bullet above. This article will report on the data Teresa and I collected during the course we co-taught in Spring 2011 called Rhetoric & Social Media. It will be submitted to Reference Services Review by the first week in February 2013, which means I'll be writing it during the month of January. Luckily the data is already collected and analyzed, so it is simply a matter of reporting in article-format on what we found. (Ahem. I write that so casually, but this is definitely easier said than done, as I learned with Part 1.)
  • A book chapter essay for a book tentatively titled Academic Publication and Contingent Faculty, eds. LynĂ©e Lewis Gaillet and Letizia Guglielmo, which has been accepted by the editors and is due in by April 1, 2013, to be 15-25 double-spaced pages. Rather than describe what I am writing for this, I'll just share the abstract of my piece, which is actually about...writing! (I swear there's always a meta element to everything I do it seems...) And which has yet to be written, since that is how academic publication sometimes works, i.e., the writing you haven't written yet is accepted for publication, which then means you have to go ahead and write it. (At first I thought this was crazy. Now I just roll with it. *shrug*) I plan to write this piece as soon as the Reference Services Review Part 2 article is off my plate, so beginning in mid-February 2013, most likely. I like that this is more of an essay as opposed to a research report, as it will flex different writing muscles than the other stuff I'm working on. Here is the abstract:
Among the wide variety of contingent faculty responsible for producing scholarship, the tenure-track faculty librarian is faced with the dual task of conducting research in order to maintain a personal scholarly agenda while also providing research support to others. This situation offers both challenges and opportunities inherent to the unique role of the faculty librarian as both researcher and instructor. The challenges most often come from lack of time and resources, and yet the opportunities offered by the collaborative nature of the the faculty librarian's work can in fact help define and advance a worthwhile and marketable (read: publishable) scholarly agenda. This essay will offer as an example one tenure-track faculty librarian's experience in developing a scholarly agenda focused on information literacy and social media in collaboration with another tenure-track faculty member in the English department at her institution. It will tell the story of how each of these faculty members learned of the other's research interests, recognized that they were were complementary, and developed a course together where these topics were explored pedagogically to create a meaningful classroom experience for students and instructors alike. Because they planned to use the classroom as their lab and the students as voluntary subjects, this research required that they navigate the IRB process. This process had its own unique challenges since the research involved students, technology and pedagogy, a combination of factors which lead to privacy concerns on the part of the IRB. How these concerns were worked through successfully such that the research could proceed will be discussed. Furthermore, the librarian in the team found that their work appealed to other academic librarians in her field since it represented a successful collaboration between a librarian and an instructor from another department: a dynamic that is highly sought after by academic librarians on other campuses. Because collaboration was both the means and the goal of this librarian's scholarship, it made for a successful research experience leading to peer-reviewed conference presentations and journal articles in both researchers' fields. Concrete advice based on these experiences for how to successfully collaborate with colleagues in order to identify and advance a worthwhile research agenda will be offered.
  • Masters thesis, which will be at minimum 50-60 pages double spaced, though likely longer based on what I plan to write. Dr. Will Cohen has agreed to be my thesis advisor, which I'm really excited about since not only have I been working with him this semester on the topic I will write my thesis on, but he and his family are also fellow parishioners at my parish, All Saints Orthodox Church. I've already casually described what I plan to write on for my thesis in an email I sent to Dr. Cohen, so once again I will just copy that out here so you can see where my mind is and where it will be going once I dive into this undertaking. My thesis plan is to first create a detailed outline/proposal of what I plan to write, how I plan to write it, and what works I plan to use to do so. Once Dr. Cohen has approved it, I will then proceed with executing it. I want to have the outline/proposal done by mid-semester in Spring 2013, so, likely I will finalize this soon after the above book chapter is due in, so mid-late April 2013. Then I will be throwing myself completely into the work itself, aiming to complete it by the end of the summer, and defend it by the end of September 2013. Basically, once I get the above writing projects off my plate, all of my writing energies will be poured into my thesis until it's done, with the bulk of the writing happening next summer. So, here's what I plan to write on, as of now:
For the central work of my thesis I want to read/analyze the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (both text and, where applicable, praxis) for the ways in which ratio-intellectus play a role in how the liturgy is experienced by those present. For now, I am using these words (ratio-intellectus) for these complementary concepts, though they align with the work-rest dichotomy as well as the time-eternity one--something I will develop in my study. I envision three main "parts" to the thesis: 1) a development of the conceptual framework of ratio-intellectus based on the work of many thinkers (I'd like to draw on the Fathers, classical philosophers of antiquity, and more modern thinkers like Pieper, Schmemann and Louth; the paper I'm writing this semester would likely be incorporated into that third sub-section of the thesis); 2) the analysis/study of the liturgy (this is my "original contribution" within the thesis, though I plan to begin this section with an introduction where I summarize the ways in which the liturgy has been examined in the past--a "lit review" of sorts on what others have done with the liturgy, in order to put my work in context); and, 3) implications for mission and living a Christian life "during the rest of the week" based on whatever I find in the previous two sections.
***

And I think that about covers it. As you can see, my writing marathon should be over by October 2013, at which point my next task will be to write the 20-page narrative for my promotion application to Associate Professor, due in around November 1, 2013. And if I can actually manage to complete everything I've just listed, I'll be in a very good place to apply for promotion.

And now that I see it all laid out, and as excited as I am about each project, I realize all the more how much I need that magic wand to make more time appear out of thin air... Here's to hoping I can pull it off!

Bookie thinks I can...

Post updated on December 7, 2012, to include the awesome ecard at the top of the post.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Today I Was: Happy


Today was Bookie's first day at daycare. I cuddled with her all morning. We went for a lunchtime walk together in the brisk, fall day. Then we took her to daycare, where I nursed her before we handed her to the very good care giver. As we said goodbye, she was in her new care giver's arms, pensively and calmly sucking on her pacifier. As we left the room, she didn't cry.

I had to remind myself that the reason my husband and I were even able to be open to having a child right away is because of daycare, since leaving my job is not an option (nor is it a desire) at this point in our life as a family. Then off to work I went where I had a very productive three hours. 

Four hours or so after we dropped her off, we returned to pick her up. She was napping, and we were told she was fine the whole time. We received the above report (pictured) of her first day, which indicated that it was a good day for her at the daycare. Everyone couldn't get over her hair (my 2.5 month old daughter has a full head of thick brown hair, a good three inches long already). And she seemed her normal Bookie self as we strapped her into her car seat.

Thank God today went well. Here's to hoping for more days like today.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happening Now (With an Excursus on Nicknames)

The Bookie's* baptism is this Saturday. She'll be wearing her daddy's baptismal gown. This makes me oh so happy. 



*So, nicknames have a funny way of asserting themselves, no matter one's original intent. While our daughter was fondly called Rosebud in utero, it turns out a new name has emerged for her on this side of the womb. She is The Bookie Schnookie (not to be confused with "Snooki"), alternately called The Bookie Schnooks, Bookus Schnookus, Bookster, Bookie, and simply Book. The origin is not related to the kind of "book" you read, but is rather born from the beautifully silly sing-songy nonsense that comes out of parents' mouths when they are blessed with a teeny tiny creature to take care of. Though being a librarian, I'm perfectly happy if that connection comes to mind. 

So, from here on out she will likely be referred to as Bookie (or one of the variations noted) on the blog. You've been warned. :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Going Back

Holy heck this is hard.

Today my daughter is 10 weeks old. Today is also the day I return to work after my 10-week maternity leave. My going back to work was always in the cards for us, starting from before I even met my husband. But now that I'm here--now that I've finally arrived at this moment in the timeline of my life--I'd be a bold-faced liar if I said it was easy.

Last night I reached a wall where I needed to just stop doing all of the things on my Going Back To Work To Do List, and just be with my daughter. I realized it was my last evening with her before I would be a bona fide working-outside-the-home mother. I needed that time with her, and I like to think she needed that time with me, so I gave it to us.

Snuggly Girl :)

Another thing I did last night--and I'm still doing it now in the early morning hours together--is take many, many pictures of my darling girl. My phone is my camera, and all of my photos are saved on my phone as well as automatically uploaded into the cloud (in this case via a private album on Google+, of all places, ha, but it was the most automated way to set up my photo and video back-up on my Android device). I think my reasoning for taking so many pictures and videos of her, and of us as a family (especially pictures of her with her daddy, since he will be her primary caregiver while I am at work these next months: the flexibility of his work schedule allows this, thank God), was to try to etch deeply into my memory my daughter's countenance, since I won't be seeing it in the flesh as often as I have these past months once I am back at work. It's fascinating to me that capturing her in my phone's camera viewfinder helped me do this...an indication of the central role technology is playing in my processing and memories of these early days with my little one. And most of the pictures I've taken are for me and me alone--I only share on Facebook and via email (to her grandparents and uncle) a fraction of the pictures I take of her. But these pictures and the few videos I've taken of her so far are precious to me, and even more so now that I'll be apart from her for much of the work week.

Watching Man of La Mancha with her Dad
"This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless,
no matter how far..."

Speaking of, our plan for child care throughout the week is as follows: I work an evening shift at my library (Monday through Friday, afternoons and evenings), which means I get to be with her all morning. Paul works two mornings a week at one of his schools (the nearby Orthodox seminary), which are Monday and Friday mornings. Then he teaches two classes at the same university where I work, for an hour and fifteen minutes each afternoon, four afternoons per week (Monday through Thursday). In addition, I will be off from work every Wednesday between now and the end of the semester, which is something I was able to arrange because I saved so many of my Vacation Days in the first half of this calendar year. So what this amounts to is the need for child care other than Paul and myself for three afternoons per week--Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays--during the times I am at work and he is teaching elsewhere on campus. For these times, our daughter will be in day care--a very good day care that is very close to campus and which many of my colleagues at the university use for their children. We are very happy with where she'll be for those few hours on those few days each week. We recognize that she will interact with very good care givers, and as she gets a bit older she'll have the opportunity to be "at play" there in a way that Paul and I can't always facilitate here in our home due to the nature of our home and work lives. So overall, our situation for the rest of this semester at least is very good, all things considered, for which we are very grateful, since these early months in her life as so important to how she bonds with the two of us as her parents.

I took this one as a visual reminder of how well-loved and cared for she will be
with her daddy while I'm at work.

Interestingly, due to various circumstances outside of our control, she isn't starting at day care until next week. This means this week Paul and I will be watching her somewhat "on the job," which my incredibly supportive supervisors at work have approved. Which brings me to the positive side of this situation: I've missed my work as a librarian. I mean, I wasn't necessarily pining for it throughout my leave (I was way too distracted by the cutest baby on the block), but I am looking forward to picking up the thread on projects I am working on. And I love my co-workers dearly, and have honestly missed seeing them daily. And finally, with the Fall season upon us here in NEPA, which is my favorite time of year, I am so excited to have a reason to get dressed and leave the house every day. Boots, skirts, hats, scarves and sweaters are just so cozy and lovely. And if there is one thing NEPA can be said to excel at, it is Fall leaves--the colors are jaw-dropping for a few weeks each year, and those weeks are now upon us. Not a bad time of year to return to work if you ask me.

This morning. 

I'll end this little reflection with something I posted to Facebook last night in a status update: "For the record, I don't regret having to go back to work. But it'd be foolish to think that means I won't be sad tomorrow." This transition is a complicated one in terms of my thoughts and feelings. My roles as wife, mother and librarian are about to converge big time...and part of the purpose of this blog is to document this convergence. Thank you, dear readers, for coming along for the ride.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rosebud's Arrival (in words)

...before Mommy Amnesia sets in. (I've been writing this post for over a month now....time to finish and post it before the details fade from my memory completely.)

What follows is the longest post I've ever written, and will likely ever write. You've been warned.

But hey, there are some new pictures at the end of the narrative below, as a reward for reading the whole thing! And while I know you could simply scroll down past the text to see the pictures...that would defeat the purpose. No cheating! *wink*

***

I wasn't sure if I was going to write this post. It is my Birth Story. (I capitalized that because I've noticed across the web that it is a genre of sorts.) It is the story of what it was like, as a first time mother, to give birth to my daughter six weeks and three days ago. Obviously this is a very personal experience, which on the one hand was why I hesitated to write it out. But I've decided to write it, and post it here, for two reasons:

1) I've shared it verbally on several occasions already, to sympathetic (usually female) ears, but I think writing it out will enable me to process it in a way I think is necessary.

And, 2) I'm sharing it on this blog because, as you'll read below, there was so much about giving birth I had no idea about, which is saying something considering I learned everything I could leading up to it (and being a scholar/researcher/librarian, you can be assured that my "learning" about childbirth was pretty darned thorough). This blog exists at the place where that which is personal and that which is professional in my life meet. Giving birth is one of those things that is a game-changer...when I return to my job as a librarian after my 10-week maternity leave, I will not be the same professional I was beforehand, as a direct result of this very personal experience. Granted, having my little one at home will be a huge part of this. However, I'm a bit flabbergasted at the things I didn't know going into the labor and delivery of my baby--the things that the average person who hasn't given birth also doesn't know--and I guess I feel that posting my experience in a relatively public space will accomplish two things related to this that are important to me... It will tell, explicitly and in a non-sugar-coated manner, what giving birth is like, which I believe will be beneficial for any of my readers who are not yet mothers but hope to be some day via childbirth. And, it will somehow embody the fact that I am a woman who is both a librarian, and also experienced the following experience. Perhaps this second accomplishment is only meaningful to me, but that's okay. Anyway, here it goes.

***

I'm going to write this in a bit of a non-linear fashion. I want to start by sharing the "facts" of my labor and delivery, and then I will fill in the story around those facts. In a way it's like building a constellation (to keep in theme with the name of my blog): I'm starting with the stars, and then I'll draw the lines between them. Here are the facts, in no particular order, of what happened when I gave birth to my daughter:
  • Beginning with early labor through delivery, my labor was around 29 hours long.
  • I was only in the birthing suite (fancy for "delivery room") for the last 5 of those hours.
  • I vomited 3 times while at home during labor. The third time, it was determined later that my water broke. 
  • I gave birth in a very good, family-centered hospital. 
  • My husband was with me the whole time. 
  • I had a vaginal birth with no complications (thank God).
  • We went to the hospital twice. The first time they sent me home because my labor was not progressing--I was dilated at 3 centimeters but, after 3 hours of laboring at the hospital (without being admitted), I was still at 3 centimeters. I chose to go home. 
  • The second time, I arrived at 6 centimeters with my water broken and they admitted me immediately. This was 11:30 pm the night before my daughter was born.
  • I did not have an epidural.
  • I did, however, ask for and accept pain medication which was administered intravenously. 
  • By the time my daughter was born, I had not slept for 2 days. Nor had I eaten and kept food down since the beginning of my labor 29 hours earlier. 
  • Transition--the part of labor between 8 and 10 centimeters--lasted around, maybe, 45 minutes.
  • Pushing--which could only occur once I was dilated to 10 centimeters--lasted maybe 20-30 minutes.
  • During delivery (i.e., pushing my baby out), I tore ("down there"). It was a second degree tear (out of four degrees, four being quite horrible). 
  • My baby passed meconium, i.e., a bowel movement, into her amniotic fluid during delivery. This meant that as soon as she was born she needed to be attended to by nurses from the NICU in order to prevent her from breathing the meconium into her lungs via the amniotic fluid. They did this in the room with us, and my husband was able to visit with the baby while they did so. She wound up being fine from this.
  • After being attended to, my baby was returned to me and laid on my chest around 20 minutes later. We were able to breastfeed within the first hour of her being born. We are exclusively breastfeeding, so this was important to us. 
  • My doctor, who is a sole practitioner (which means he was the only doctor we were seeing throughout my pregnancy), almost did not deliver our baby.
  • When she was born, my daughter was 5 days past her official due date.
  • There is no way, in heaven or on earth, I could have done this without my husband by my side the whole time.
Phew, those are a lot of facts. I tried to keep that list succinct, since now I want to flesh out a few of these details. I want to try to make them earthy and real--like the experience was for me. So, here we go...

***

Before labor began, I had no idea what it would feel like. I Googled "what does a contraction feel like" several times a day, once my due date had come and gone. I read a lot of different descriptions. When labor finally began in its earliest stages, I was working on a crocheting project--it was late Saturday evening, around 11:30 pm. I can now say with clarity what a contraction feels like to me: it feels like a very bad period cramp. The first contractions just felt uncomfortable, such that I didn't really notice them. Eventually, though, I realized the crampy feeling was coming and going at intervals, which was when I thought: "Hmm, maybe these are contractions." Sensing this was likely the case, I went upstairs to bed (where my husband was already asleep), hoping to get some sleep since I thought the following day might involve a trip to the hospital and I wanted to be well rested. Yeah, fat chance there. Though the contractions were not terribly painful yet, they were uncomfortable enough that I could not sleep through them. So, I didn't. Instead I decided to start timing them using an app on my phone. At this point they were on average 10 minutes or so apart, and mild. Nothing to write home about (yet), so I let my husband sleep, since again I figured the next day may be long for both of us and, at this point, though I was not likely to be well-rested, I figured one of us should be. 

The next morning was Sunday morning. When Paul woke up, he realized I was timing contractions, and they were getting more painful, so he made the decision to stay home from liturgy to be with me. I let him take over the task of timing the contractions, and over the course of the morning the intervals between them became shorter and shorter. I also realized what was previously uncomfortable was now beginning to feel painful, so we started using the breathing techniques we learned in our Lamaze childbirth class. I also tried to eat some breakfast--a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with milk--but not too long after eating I vomited the food back up. By mid-morning, it appeared as though the contractions were, basically, on average, to the best of our understanding as first-time parents, 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 full hour. Referred to as the "5-1-1 Rule," this meant we could call the doctor and find out if we should go to the hospital, so we did.

Our doctor, Dr. Green, was on vacation the week this was taking place. It turns out he has a planned family vacation the same week every year--the last full week in July. This also happened to be the week that included both of my due dates (July 23 and July 25). A month before my due date Dr. Green informed us of this potentially unfortunate circumstance, understandable though it was: even doctors need the flexibility to take time off to be with their families. We all figured, though, there was a 6-week window in which the baby could arrive safely, so we tried not to stress about it. Well, both due dates came and went...Dr. Green was enjoying his week off...and the baby still hadn't arrived.

Returning to the Sunday I was in labor, it was the Sunday at the end of Dr. Green's week off. We had an appointment with Dr. Green at his office the next morning (Monday) to discuss what we'd do if I hadn't gone into labor yet, so we knew he'd be back at work by then. But that Sunday when we called the doctor about my contractions, it wasn't Dr. Green we spoke to but his back-up, a doctor whose name I have since forgotten. Based on what we told him (our perceived "5-1-1" status), this doctor told us we could come into the hospital so I could be checked.

It was around 11:00 am by this time. While I was in pain, in retrospect I can see now that the pain couldn't have been so bad compared to the level it would eventually reach. I know this because Paul and I almost serenely gathered our things, packed our last-minute items for the hospital, took out the trash--things I wanted to have done before we went to the hospital for the long haul so we'd return to a clean, tidy house. (I know, I'm a bit crazy like this.) After completing all of these minor tasks, we set out for the hospital, which is 10 minutes away from our home, thinking the next time we returned to our house we'd have our baby with us on this side of my belly.

We arrived at the hospital midday, and the doctor on duty checked me and told us I was at 3 centimeters. This seemed encouraging. The nurse hooked me up to a machine that would measure my contractions, and I was told to wait a while so they could measure how strong they were. This was tedious, and painful since we were in this little area in triage (so, not admitted yet) and I felt somewhat confined as I was laboring with contractions I thought were pretty darned painful with only a small area to labor in. This circumstance wasn't really the hospital's fault (in my opinion)--it was just the nature of the beast: they didn't want to admit me until they knew I was ready to have the baby, which makes sense especially since my birth plan stated I wanted as few interventions as possible, and triage was the space they had set aside for this "in-between" period when a woman is in labor but they're not sure how strongly. So, there we were, me laboring away in triage for about an hour while they measured my contractions on the machine.

After the hour, the nurse returned, then the doctor joined her. They checked me and I was still at 3 centimeters. They suggested, based on the readings on the contraction chart, that I get up and walk around the hospital a bit to see if walking and moving around would help "get labor going" for me. So, Paul and I did this...it was an odd experience, not horrible but not wonderful either. We wandered the maternity floor for over an hour, contractions happening all the while. I kept having to stop and lean forward against the wall when each contraction came, in order to bear it. When we finally returned to triage to be checked again, I was sure things must be a little farther along...

...but in short, they were not. I was still at 3 centimeters. It was about 3:00 pm--by now we had been there for over 3 hours. The doctor explained that for labor to be progressing at a rate that merited being admitted, I needed to be dilating more and more as time went by. Since I was still at 3 centimeters after as many hours, my labor did not yet fall into this classification. And then he shared the real kicker...put simply, my contractions were not yet painful enough. He and the nurse were very delicate about how they phrased this (I don't think they used to words "pain" or "painful"), since it was very clear I was in a lot of pain already. But they needed me to know the contractions would get even more intense and strong than they already were, and until they did it was likely my labor would not progress in the way it needed to. While they were willing to admit me if I wanted, they also warned me that if they did and things didn't progress fast enough after being admitted, they would need to begin using some of the interventions I noted in my birth plan I wanted to avoid--things like breaking my bag of waters manually followed possibly by the use of Pitocin to make my contractions even stronger if they didn't get strong enough on their own. Since I didn't want any of these things to be part of my labor and delivery if I could help it, and I was dead tired and thought being home would be more restful, I decided to go home.

Once Paul and I got home, I tried to eat again--penne pasta with butter and cheese (very light)--and while I kept it down for maybe an hour and a half, I eventually vomited a second time and lost much of this meal. Paul and I assumed based on what the back-up doctor told us that although my contractions were continuing, it was more likely we'd need to wait until the morning to see Dr. Green at his office to get a sense as to what would come next. Again, in retrospect, it's funny we thought this since it turns out that laboring at home that evening would cause my labor to progress very nicely indeed, including the requisite increase in pain/intensity with each contraction, thank you very much (ha, not.). I could no longer bear the contractions sitting or lying down, though I tried the latter a bit since I was dying for some rest (read: sleep) between contractions. They were getting closer together though, which meant rest was basically out for me, as it had been since the evening before.

My laboring at this point looked like a comical dance: I'd be lying down in our bed to rest (not sleep) between contractions, and then when I felt one coming, I had to spring up and use our bed post to lean over and sorta squat during the contraction to make it semi-bearable. My husband would also press down on my lower back (yay for counter pressure!) which helped, not to mention him counting out my breathing (though I often had to speed up his count, which was kind of funny as well, since I was sorta rushing him along as I breathed). Then when the contraction ended, I'd fall back into bed for a few minutes to rest. It was at this point I realized why it is called "labor," since all I wanted to do was rest, but the contractions demanded that I stand and be active (read: labor, the verb) if they weren't to be excruciating. Oh and one other detail to add some color to this picture: by now I was vocalizing in a low tone through each contraction. Kind of a "huuuuuuuuuuuuh" on the exhale of each breath. Yea, it was some scene.

This went on for many hours, and I stopped thinking about how we were gonna make it through the night until the appointment with Dr. Green the next morning, since if I thought about it I'd have no real answer. But I was so affected by what the back-up doctor said--that the contractions were gonna get REALLY much more difficult to bear than they had been--that I kept thinking: "Eh, still not bad enough yet." Thank God, I wound up underestimating myself and the contractions in this sense, but more on that later. For now, I had Paul trying to coax me into walking around our upstairs, since walking would help me dilate (gravity helping things along), which would make the pain be not in vain but productive toward the end goal of having our baby, thus in theory more bearable. But I was so tired it was like pulling teeth to get me to do anything but spring up and lean over the bed post at each contraction, only to fall back into the bed when the contraction ended (imagine a jack-in-the-box; yep, that was me). I finally conceded and "went for a walk," but one of the contractions while in the hall outside of our bathroom was so bad that when it ended, I got nauseous and realized I was gonna retch again, even with nothing in my stomach. (Paul had been feeding me ice all this time by the way, so I wasn't completely dehydrated...just lacking in any real calorie intake for coming on 24 hours.) I ran into the bathroom, sat down and proceeded to dry retch into the trash can. As this happened, something happened down below as well, and what had been normal bloody show (as it's called) was now a different composition--lighter and a bit brighter. [I warned you I wasn't going to sugar-coat this.] We later found out this was my bag of waters breaking, but at the time it scared me because blood that is bright red is not normal and could mean something was wrong with me or the baby. And all I thought was: "I'd be a fool not to call the doctor again, if after all of this hard work something just happened to the baby and something terrible happens in the long run because we didn't call right away, whereas if we call and get into the hands of some medical professionals they will be able to head off at the pass any complications that could hurt the baby." I couldn't bear that thought, that all this laboring could wind up being in vain. So, call we did, and once again we were told to come back to the hospital. It was maybe 10:30 pm at this point.

Just to put things into perspective, remember how I described a tidy house and a serene exit as we left for the hospital the first time? This time it looked more like a war zone: damp rags and towels everywhere, dishes in the kitchen from dinner, vomit in several of the trash bins...yea, it was bad. And the sign that I was in a very different kind of labor now than I had been all those hours earlier? I did not care a whit about the mess. It was much more important we get ourselves to the hospital. We grabbed our still-packed bags, turned off the lights and locked the door behind us.

I did have at least one contraction in the car, which was not fun at all--imagine me kind of standing in the front seat, back arched, keeping pressure off of my lower area. Gotta love it. Anyway, we got to the hospital, made our way to the maternity floor, and learned we weren't the only ones coming in to have our baby. I had two other women around me who were also bearing contractions as we signed ourselves in (thankfully my paperwork was already on file). They took me right to a birthing room--no triage this time, which was curious since I still needed to be checked for progress. Maybe they knew something looking at me that I didn't, because as soon as the doctor--still Dr. Green's back-up and the same one from earlier that day--checked how far along I was, fluid sorta burst onto the bed in front of me and he said: "She's 6 and 9." I was like, ummmmm, I'm what and what? I turned to our nurse, an amazing woman who had just introduced herself as "Cherie," and asked what that meant. She said it meant I was dilated to 6 (!!!) and 90% effaced. In regular-speak, I was much farther along than I had been on our first trip to the hospital, and all of that progress occurred at home--yay! So, without question I was admitted. It was 11:30 pm at this point.

What happened during the next 5 hours is pretty straightforward, even though it was actually the hardest part. First, the nurse explained to me my pain management options. My birth plan stated I didn't want an epidural. In theory I still didn't, but I was so exhausted I was considering it if it was the only thing that would enable me to rest. I told Cherie this, and she was incredible: she told me that, considering I was already at 6 centimeters without any pain medication (apparently this is rather impressive in the maternity care world), she was pretty sure I could have my baby without needing an epidural. Her telling me so gave me the confidence I needed to give it a whirl (see, I told you it is a great hospital), and so I assumed I would not be asking for an epidural after an hour went by and I was able to get one. (An epidural requires that you be on fluids via IV for one hour before it can be administered.) They started me on fluids right away, which felt like a miracle. And Cherie then went on to explain about regular pain meds--the kind that get administered intravenously, which they could administer right away if I wanted. These would not make all the pain go away like an epidural would, but they would take the edge off of the contractions for a bit--maybe an hour, maybe two. But more importantly, they would enable me to get some rest between contractions, forcing me to relax. Since my entire body was so tense I was trembling from it (my muscles were so strained by this point), I thought this sounded perfect for my needs, so this is what I went with.

Let me tell you, the fluids plus pain meds enabled me to labor through those next few hours in a way I don't think I could have without them. Combined, they were glorious. Even so, when Cherie told me I could stand next to my bed during the contractions if I wanted to, I happily declined: I was finally in the care of the doctors and nurses, able to bear the contractions decently well (though I still needed to breathe and vocalize through them, with Paul's help). All I wanted to do was lie on that bed, and so I blessedly did. And honestly, maybe it was because I was so far along, and definitely because the pain meds enabled me to relax enough to let the contractions do their job...I don't think lying down in the bed slowed my labor in the slightest, as is sometimes suggested. Remember, I was only on that bed for 5 hours: I was admitted at 11:30 pm and my baby was born at 4:23 am. Paul put my favorite music on in the room, so I was able to sing along between contractions to keep my sanity. He was by my side the whole time, feeding me ice chips and just being his amazing, supportive self. Things were grand, and about to get grander...

At about midnight, just after I was settling into the rhythm of my new surroundings (being in bed, on fluids and meds, in the care of professionals--I can't say "yay!" to this turn of events enough), Cherie came into the room and said, "Guess who's here to see you?" I had no clue; parents wouldn't be there until we told them to get in their cars and drive, which wouldn't be until after the baby was born. Paul was the only person I approved to be in the birthing room with me, so who on earth could she mean? I said, "Who?" and she said, "Dr. Green!" Ha, how about that? It was after midnight, and he had returned to being on call as of midnight that night, on Sunday night at the end of his week-long vacation. So he was called, since I'm his patient, and in he came, bless his heart. He came into my room a little while later to check on me and say hello. It was such a relief to see him, seriously. God was with us big time on this one. He looked a little tired but overall content and happy to be there to deliver my baby, middle of the night though it was. He said ruefully, "It's okay, mine is not a 9-5 job." And so, because my baby came 5 days late, our doctor got to deliver her--definitely one of the neat twists in this story.

Well, I labored on after that, and I couldn't tell you when the meds started wearing off, though they did eventually. I know this because when I reached 8 centimeters, I suddenly wanted to push very badly, but couldn't yet because if I did, the baby wouldn't fit through my cervix and my cervix would swell from the pressure, likely resulting in the need for a C-section. Yea, no thanks. So I resisted pushing with all my might, but let me tell you this was almost the hardest part of the entire experience. Man did I want to push really badly! It was excruciating not to. Cherie coached me in some ways to help dilate the last part of my cervix, since we were almost there and if the rest of my cervix would just disappear (finish dilating) I could push my heart out. First she suggested I sit up in a lotus position during the contraction, that way gravity would help my cervix dilate. Well, that was just way too painful--tried it once and then said, nope I'm not doing that again! So then she suggested I lie on my side--the same side as the side of the cervix that hadn't finished dilating yet (my left side). So, I gave this a try, and while it was really hard to bear, it was better than the lotus thing she had me try, so I did this for a few contractions. I was holding on to the bed rail, vocalizing big time during each contraction (my low "huuuuuuuuuuuuuh's" were each ending in a bit of a holler by now). Paul was cooling me off with a damp cloth throughout, which felt wonderful. And Cherie kept checking my progress. As I got closer to 10 centimeters, she informed folk out in the hall including Dr. Green that it was almost time for me to push, so by the time I reached 10 centimeters they were assembling all the supplies they'd need to deliver my baby.

Then before I knew it, Cherie checked me and told me I was fully dilated and that I'd be able to start pushing on the next contraction! Yay, blessed relief! (Or so I hoped.) I was convinced that pushing would be fantastic compared to this not-being-able-to-push-even-though-I-want-to thing I had been going through. Well, remember how I said resisting pushing was almost the hardest part of the entire experience? That's because pushing turned out to be much, much harder, even though it was probably the shortest part overall. Was it painful? Yes. But the pain itself is not precisely what made it so hard. It was that, because of the physical pain, my body was (strongly!) resisting pushing each time I needed to push. What this meant was, I had to mentally override what my body was doing, which was to resist pushing and in turn decrease the pressure where it hurt. Both of these things were no good in this situation. What I needed to do was increase the pressure right where it hurt, in order to push my baby out. Go figure. So what ensued was 30 minutes of the greatest internal battle I've ever waged: Donna's mind versus Donna's body. I actually felt a little schizophrenic to be honest. But the blessing here came in the form of the group of people that assembled in the room. First there was Dr. Green, all dressed and ready to go to deliver my baby in the wee hours of the morning: calm, focused and professional. Cherie was on my left side and Paul on my right. And then there were additional nurses in the room because at this point they noticed that my amniotic fluid had a green tinge to it, which meant my baby passed meconium in the fluid (as I described above). Because of this, additional nurses from the NICU needed to be in the room to swoop in and aspirate my daughter immediately after she was born in order to keep her from inhaling the fluid on her first big breath. So this big group of people was in the room with us and coached me through each contraction and push. During each push they were all hollering at me in encouragement, which I desperately needed since their voices, telling me what I had to do, helped override my body which was not listening to me (remember Donna versus Donna?). In a way they were like a chorus of angels; not to get too sappy sounding, but it's what it felt like to me. But the kind of angels that are warriors, yelling a war cry for me: no dimply cherubs in that room. Yep. It really was like a war zone. Me versus myself. And my husband tells me the amount of blood involved in this part astonished him (and the amount was normal for a first time vaginal birth). But he remained strong during it which was just amazing as it was exactly what I needed from him. Not to mention the fact that I couldn't see the blood (since there were blankets between the blood and my sight line), for which I'm very grateful.

So, my chorus of warrior-angels was coaching me to push, and so I pushed. And pushed. And pushed some more. And with each push I was sure I was pushing as hard as I could...only to find out on the next one I could push harder, and had to. At one point I remember hearing my voice yell in response to everyone, "I can't!!" (Again, me versus myself here. It was a psychological drama to rival any movie plot out there.) But they all responded resoundingly, "YES YOU CAN!" Ha, it was pretty cool in this sense, to have that many cheerleaders who knew I could do it.

And so, I did. And suddenly my daughter was there on the bed in front of me, with a bit of a squelch! sound. And I felt...utterly spent. As I said before, I didn't get to hold her immediately, but Paul went with her over to the in-room baby bed where they took care of her, which I wanted him to do so she'd have one of her parents right there in arm's reach. He gave her his finger right away, which she held while she was wailing. It was precious. But meanwhile, I was still on the bed 5 feet away, feeling spent and empty (literally), hanging out with Dr. Green while he facilitated the afterbirth.

So okay, no one ever mentions the afterbirth when discussing childbirth, at least I didn't know much about it until my childbirth class. Basically this is when the placenta is birthed. The placenta is on the other end of the umbilical cord. This part didn't hurt at all in comparison to the ordeal that preceded it, but it was sort of anticlimactic in that I had to just sit there, with Dr. Green guiding things along, while the placenta came out the same way the baby did. It took a good 15-20 minutes, and once it was out Dr. Green held it up for a moment before inspecting it to make sure it came out whole...and let me tell you, I had to remind myself that what he was holding up was how my baby got her nutrition for 9 months, because if not for that fact I'd have been so utterly repulsed. (Just being honest here.) As it was, I told him I didn't need to see it, thank you very much (with a laugh of course to keep things light). Then Dr. Green had to sew me up, as I had torn a bit during the delivery. So there I was, with Dr. Green stitching away (he numbed the area in question first). By now I think our baby was brought back to me, so I decided to basically ignore what was happening from my waist down and focus on her.

And there she was, bigger than I imagined could fit inside of me, but she had. In fact when the doctor "caught" her right as she was born, I couldn't believe how big she was, even though as far as newborns go her size was not huge by any means (6 pounds, 11 ounces). Oh and I immediately noticed her dark head of hair when she "landed" on the bed in front of me...in fact, everyone did. There was at least one exclamation, "Wow look at that head of hair!" Anyway, so I was holding her, and it was beautiful...but even more pressing was the simple fact that I was utterly tired. So very tired. Like, incredibly so. We nursed, with a little coaching from one of the nurses on hand, and that seemed to go well: my baby seemed to know just what to do, tired as I'm sure she was as well. Which was a good thing because I was way too tired in the brain to help much myself.

So there we were, the three of us, our family...three of the tiredest folk you ever did see. But lo and behold, tired and difficult and challenging as the entire experience was, I was utterly grateful it was also uncomplicated and me and baby were both healthy on the other side of it. Though, in an interesting paradox, my feelings about it were incredibly complicated, even if the birth itself was not. We (Paul and I) were on sensory overload for sure, and we both knew it would take some time to process what had happened. But our baby was on this side of my belly finally, and she was healthy, which meant we must have done something right, even during all those moments we had no clue what was happening. God definitely filled in for our lack throughout the entire process, that's for sure.

But, and this is an example of me being completely honest about that moment following our daughter's birth: if someone had asked me in the few hours after her birth if I wanted to birth any more children...I know for a fact that I would not have been capable of saying "Yes." It was just too much, to imagine going through it again...

Of course now I feel differently. Which is why time and grace are so important. Now, there's a part of me that thinks, "I now know certain aspects of what to expect. Having that knowledge is empowering. Thus I think I could face it again." (And the maternal instinct in me of course wants to face it again, knowing the beautiful "prize" at the end of it.) But for the sake of being honest about all of the moments in the experience, I wanted to record somewhere the fact that I could not have said the same thing in those few hours following the birth itself. I was empty, and couldn't imagine offering that same part of myself again any time soon. I also knew my feelings would change, as they have, but still, they were what they were. So, there you have it.

Obviously there is a lot more I could write about, but I definitely need to reign in this post, as it is way longer than I ever intended it to be. But because I can't post this many words without a photo or two (or three), here ya go; as promised, you've earned it for reading this far:


Just a few minutes old...
"Man that was some ordeal!
Thank God I have Daddy's hand here to
comfort me. Thanks, Dad, for helping Mom
so well tonight. You're the best." :)


Around one day old...thinking very hard
about all we just went through.
"Hmmmmmmmm...that was intense."

And, though this is a few weeks later, I couldn't resist...


"Mom, can you believe we made it through that crazy
experience? We make a great team, don't we Mom?"
***

(Yep, based on this last pic, it's clear Mommy Amnesia began to set in pretty soon thereafter. Life quickly became equal parts exhausting and utterly happy. But this post was my attempt to reach back through the fog of that amnesia and record what happened. Here's to hoping I succeeded. And thank you for reading, if you indeed read this far.)




Friday, August 31, 2012

Nursing Necklace

So, I have a mondo post in draft, which is close to being done...but not quite there yet. But something else came up that I'd like to quickly post about, because it combines a few things that are really important to me right now, and also gives me an excuse to link to a really awesome, new (to me) blog that is becoming one of my favorite spots on the interwebs these days.

I'll start with the blog... So, remember everyone's favorite quirky 90s television teen, Blossom? Well, it turns out that the actress who played her, Mayim Bialik, has grown up into one of the coolest people around, by my standards at least. She has a PhD in Neuroscience, has written a book about parenting based on her scientific knowledge as well as her own experience mothering her two sons, and has returned to acting in her role as a quirky female scientist and nerdy love interest to one of the main characters [that link is a YouTube clip of the show featuring Mayim's character] on the prime time TV show The Big Bang Theory, for which she is currently nominated for an Emmy. In addition to all of this, Mayim is also a practicing and devout Jew, who takes her Jewish faith very seriously. She blogs at a website called Kveller: A Jewish Twist on Parenting, which means her blog is about a combination of being Jewish, being a parent, and inevitably, being a working actress, and what happens when you combine all these things into one full, wonderful life. (Sound familiar?)

If I sound a bit like I'm gushing, it's because I am. Now, I'm not Jewish, and I don't watch The Big Bang Theory, but I did watch Blossom growing up, I am an academic (and being a PhD in Neuroscience, arguably so is she), and most importantly in this case, I am also a new mother who takes her faith very seriously. And by the way, Orthodox Christianity and Judaism share many of the same values, not to mention thousands of years of history and tradition (leading up to Christ). So, while Mayim and I don't agree about who Jesus Christ is, there is more common ground between us than one may initially think. Which is to say, her blog covers a lot of topics that are important to me right now, having to do with faith, family and work life. So, I am likely to link to it here from time to time...like I'm about to do now.

In one of her recent posts, Mayim shares what it is like getting ready for the Emmy awards ceremony. If you go give it a quick read, you'll see first of all why I love this lady so much: the post is about finding a modest but flattering dress for the ceremony. For an actress in Hollywood to care about such things is pretty awesome if you ask me. Furthermore, the reason for her caring is tied to her faith--extra points from me for that! But the part of the post that got me thinking and then acting in like manner recently was the bit about wearing something around her neck to represent her Jewish faith:
As I considered the dress, my thoughts invariably turned toward my neck. Why? Because I try and wear a Jewish star around my neck anytime I’m in public, or private for that matter. I like publicly identifying as a Jewish person by adorning my neck with the Star of David. It’s kind of my thing. With all due respect to stylist Ali, she doesn’t always feel my Jewish star necklace “goes” with every outfit and I had a feeling the Emmys would be one of those nights that she would say my Jewish star doesn’t “go” with the outfit.
In the end, Mayim and her stylist agreed upon a different Jewish symbol for Mayim to wear around her neck on Emmy night: a mezuzah. So, ok, interesting, but you're probably wondering what this has to do with me.

Well, last week I made the decision to stop wearing my necklace which is made of metal (gold) and holds two things precious to me: the cross, and my wedding band. I have worn a cross around my neck ever since I became an Orthodox Christian. And my wedding band, well, that's pretty self-explanatory, but the reason it is on a chain around my neck is because my hands are still a bit swollen from water retention due to my pregnancy, and the band doesn't fit me at the moment.

The reason I stopped wearing the necklace is because of my baby. I often hold her against my chest, and the cross is too sharp for comfort since sometimes her face smacks against me when I am hoisting her up or when she is making it clear she is hungry. In addition, she is now grabbing at my shirt and whatever is in reach while nursing and being held (which is so adorable by the way), which means she could yank the chain and I could lose my wedding band as well as the cross. For these reasons, I have decided not to wear my metal jewelry around my neck as long as she is still nursing, which could be for a while, God willing.

I am surviving with my wedding band stored away in a safe place, since I have a Claddagh ring that does fit on my left ring finger which I can wear in the meantime to signify that I am very much "taken" by my husband. But the absence of the cross, while not such a big deal for me, bothers me for the sake of my daughter. She spends so much time at my breast, and I liked the idea of her seeing and touching the cross while she is there. I want her to be familiar with it on an intimate level, as it is the symbol of our Christian faith, but I also don't want its presence to be dangerous for her, as the gold cross is since it is so sharp and could scratch her while she is snuggling against me.

So, the solution? A cross made of cord instead of metal, of course! I happened to own one already that is just the right size, which I picked up at a monastery at some point over the past few years. So I went digging for it yesterday and, thankfully, found it. While it was not made to be a nursing necklace, per say, I am using it as one so my daughter knows the cross from her infancy. And while its black color and starkness is rather more ascetic than aesthetic, parenting is by far one of the most ascetic endeavors I have ever embarked upon, and so its character as such seems fitting.




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rosebud's Arrival (in pictures, mostly)

When last we left off, I was nesting big time right as I became full term. Then 40 weeks arrived...

Monday, July 23, 2012...1st Due Date

Wednesday, July 25, 2012...2nd Due Date
and Feast of St. Anna
(this pic of silliness was me trying not to
be stressed about going past due...)

Still July 25th...Queen Anne's Lace :)
(significance will be revealed shortly)

Thursday, July 26th was my last day at work. Then, the weekend arrived...

Saturday, July 28, 2012...began a challenging (for me)
crocheting project, waiting to go into labor...which finally
happened later that night, and went through the next day
(Sunday the 29th)...

And after all that waiting, and a labor and delivery I'm still processing (though rest assured it was very good and happy and healthy overall...just very, very intense in a way I could not have anticipated...)--which is why this is a picture post as opposed to a reflection post--this happened...



NOTE: The above infomation is intentionally embedded in an image, as opposed to typed out in the blog post itself (and thus is, in theory, not searchable on the public web). A request to my readers who leave comments: On this blog, please refer to my little one by her blog-tastic nickname (lol), Rosebud <3 I wanted to include this information though (in the screen shot above), for those of you who are the praying kind and would like to keep our little one in your prayers by name. Also, now you can see the significance of her patronal feast day (last Wednesday) as well as the wild flower I pictured above :)

Wasn't sure if I'd include a shot of her face
on the blog, but...I couldn't resist. Just one :) (for now lol)
What a beauty, if I may say so myself...
And then, last night, there was this...

Love <3
For now, this is all I have the energy to share. More to come as I am able. But thank you to my humble readership, for all of your thoughts and prayers these past weeks. 

Welcome, Rosebud. We've been waiting for you. :)


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Full Term Nesting (in photos)

When asked when my baby is due, I have been sharing the first due date our doctor gave us: July 23rd, nine months to the day after our wedding day (but who's counting?). However, at a later appointment our doctor changed it to July 25th, which is what is in my doctor's file/chart as my due date. Is there much of a difference? No, not at all--Rosebud will kick me into labor when she is good and ready. My "due date," then, for all practical purposes, is sometime that week of July 23rd/25th.

I share all this because, going by the later date, yesterday (July 4th) my baby reached full term. My 37th week began, which means Rosebud is developed enough where, if I go into labor from here on out, since I have had an uncomplicated pregnancy (thank God) my doctor will not do anything to stop it. So, even though I have another two and a half weeks or so until she is due, I'm doing my very best to get things ready for her before then. Which means: Nesting!

This past weekend my mom came into town to help me get the house more ready for the baby than it had been. Mostly this meant helping me clean, since bending down to reach the floor is beyond my capabilities now. But it also meant helping me get Rosebud's room in order. We got so much done, and I am so pleased with how the nursery looks now. 

Then, last night another nesting attack hit me. You see, yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting two adorable, very young babies--one was only 9 hours old (Yay, Isidore!)--and I think seeing little babies on this side of the womb made me want to go "get ready" for little Rosebud some more. Last night, the task at hand was packing for the hospital, but I also had some odds and ends in her room to finish up. The result? I was up until later than 3 am (I won't say how much later...) nesting away. It's a good thing I work an evening shift...and yes, I am still working full time. So far, there's been no reason for me not to. Working in an air conditioned, quiet library is a much better choice for me right now than remaining home, anxiously awaiting labor to begin. 

But now, the main point of today's post: sharing the fruits of my labor (well, my labor-before-the-true-labor, ha) in photos (with commentary, of course...compare to pictures of the nursery from a month ago): 

Crib with freshly laundered bedding :)
Safety bumper still needs to be installed though

Diaper changing station (with storage boxes filled with
clean onesies and other essentials) and bookshelf
(sans books--they're coming though!
Still need to transfer my children's book collection
from the master bedroom where it currently lives)

Glider, nursing pillow, handy coffee table: aka, "Mama's Corner" :)

Fold out couch, A/C unit (VERY exciting, that),
and yes, those are partially packed bags for the hospital,
for me and baby :)

Dresser, atop which are various wall hangings that need to be hung,
which is filled with freshly laundered little girl's clothes (so adorable!)

And this is Rosebud's cradle, located in our room,
which is where she will be sleeping when she first comes
home from the hospital

And one more for good measure: here's me at 37 weeks,
next to an icon of my patron saint, the Theotokos,
which I wrote/painted (under the guidance of a
master iconographer) a few years ago :)
By her prayers I hope to have a safe, healthy delivery!

While there is always more to do, I can happily say that we are as ready as we can be for Rosebud's arrival, whenever she chooses to make her appearance! C'mon sweet girl, we're waiting for you!

Edit: It occurred to me that I'd be remiss if I didn't thank all of the dear ones in our life--family and friends--who have gifted us with so many things for Rosebud. Without your generosity, we would not be nearly as "ready" as we are at present to bring her home to an environment that is warm, secure and beautiful. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all of you, from me and Paul.